Opioid Battle Turns Corner

Oct 26, 2018  | 3 min  | Ep4410

Rural American’s face many of the same problems as their urban counterparts. One of them is the fight against opioid addiction. This week, President Trump sent reinforcements to those on the frontlines of what he has labelled “a nationwide public health emergency.”

John Torpy has more.

Those fighting the battle against Opioid Misuse Disorder received good news this week as a positive report from the Centers for Disease Control was combined with a new law aimed at supporting those on the front lines of the epidemic.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar announced mortality rates from opioid overdose have slowed this year. His statement was based on a new CDC study showing opioid deaths had decreased in correlation with an introduction of advanced treatment options and easier access to anti-overdose drugs. 

According to the study, the increase in the number of opioid overdose deaths declined from a growth rate of 10 percent in a 2017 to just 3 percent in 2018. Officials with the CDC were only able to estimate the number of opioid deaths in this year due to a time lag between reporting and data compilation. 

The federal agency also has provided additional ammunition for those pushing back against OMD by infusing $1 billion into ongoing treatment initiatives. 

While the news was seen as a win for those fighting the nation’s worst opioid epidemic in history, there were still 50,000 fatalities from opioid overdoses last year alone.

President Trump’s signing of the Support for Communities and Patients Act this week will reinforce those fighting against opioid misuse disorder. The legislation provides new resources for treatment and works to curb the amount of opioids coming across the border and over the counter. President Trump has promised to put a big dent in the epidemic by directing the U.S. Postal Service and the Department of Homeland Security to scan packages entering the country for banned narcotics. The scans will include the search for Fentanyl, an inexpensive drug fifty times stronger than heroin. At the counter, pharmacists are filling opioid prescriptions with fewer pills, in an attempt to keep excess medications out of the illicit drug supply line.

The legislation further expands support for treatment facilities by expanding Medicaid coverage to addicts who are in treatment. The measure also gives the judicial system new tools allowing the courts to send addicts to treatment centers instead of jail.

Peter Komendowski, President, The Partnership For a Drug Free Iowa: "It stands to reason that we may have eliminated the low hanging fruit of harm from the opioid crisis, it has not apparently been enough to do anything but slow the rate of growth down. It is still growing. It hopefully signals some good news in the future, but we must be wary of thinking we have solved the problem. There is no proof that we have reversed the trend, only that it may have slowed to some extent."

The slowdown in opioid related mortality rates and continued support from the Trump Administration is seen as a bit of good news by Komendowski and others in the ongoing battle against the disease. But with three out of five drug overdose deaths related to opioids, those who are helping the nation’s 10 million addicts, see a long road ahead.

For Market to Market, I’m John Torpy

Producer Contact torpy@iptv.org

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